Without nutmeg The Lowlands would have fallen into a national culinary depression: it is the spice that gives our ‘stamppot’, chicory with cheese sauce and overcooked cauliflower at least some flavour. But spicing up bland Dutch cuisine is just an occurrence; the exotic nutmeg has defined the world’s history.
The history of nutmeg
And that history unfortunately is not a romantic story. The only place in the world were nutmeg grew were the Banda Islands, Indonesia. Those ten little islands were priceless: after all those who conquered the Banda Islands would own the world trade in nutmeg. Centuries of conquest followed and many people lost their lives. The white haze on nutmeg we find in the supermarket nowadays reminds us of the harsh trade: clever traders dipped the nutmeg into a lime bath so ensure each nutmeg leaving the islands was made infertile and could not be replanted abroad.
Those who conquered the island were mainly focused on trade, governance and battling but one man had
Nutmeg is the seed of from the muscat tree (Myristica fragrans); the only tropical tree that produces two commercial spices: nutmeg and mace. Mace is the red, lacy covering of the seed.
The word ‘nutmeg’ is a bastering of the Latin‘nux moschatae’, which means ‘musk smelling nut’. Curiously, the nutmeg is not a nut, but the pit of apricot-like fruit. Traditionally Dutch speculaas gets it unique flavour from using nutmeg in the secret spice mix; no surprise we’re using it in our Winter Ale.
One nut, two nuts, three nuts
Nutmeg was very expensive during the Middle Ages: the fragrant and rare spice was seen as a magical medicine as well. Thus, men believed that it kept the Black Death plague at bay and nutmeg was also used to induce abortions.
On the other hand, it is known as aphrodisiac, provided it is used in limited doses since the use of nutmeg was not without danger. A medieval wisdom said: one nut is healthy, the second makes you sick and the third nut will kill you.
Nutmeg in beer
Historically, nutmeg is very commonly used in mead but not as commonly in beer. Mead is said to be the ancestor of all alcoholic beverages: a drink made out of honey, sugar, water along with fruits, grains, hops and spices thrown in with an alcohol percentage of 8-20%.
Original brought back to the Western world by the Dutch, nutmeg adds a festive pungent and complex lingering spice note to our Winter Ale.